Buying a Static Holiday Caravan or Lodge in Northern Ireland.
Prior to 2011, and unlike the rest of the UK, the Mobile Homes Act (1983) didn’t apply for mobile home owners on residential parks in Northern Ireland. The Mobile Homes Act lays out specific obligations in connection with the purchase of units on residential parks and does not apply to static holiday caravans.
Mr John McAllister of the Northern Ireland Assembly recognised the problems this lack of legislation presented and subsequently proposed ‘The McAllister Bill’ which was based on the Mobile Homes Act. However Mr McAllister’s intention was for his Bill to be used to protect both holiday and residential owners and in September 2011 “The Caravans Act (NI) 2011” was passed.
The Caravans Act introduces, for the first time in Northern Ireland, specific legislation controlling the rights of people who live in a caravan as their main home (i.e. for more than 12 months) and specific legislation controlling the dealings between caravan park owners and those renting holiday caravan pitches for more than 28 days.
The Act is in two parts:
Part 1 – Residential
Part 2 – Holiday
Given our remit as a support mechanism for static holiday caravan owners we’re focused on Part 2, which naturally, only applies to caravan parks in Northern Ireland. The Act requires that any individual buying a caravan or lodge on a holiday park be issued with a written agreement prior to their commitment to buy.
The primary aim of the legislation affecting the holiday sector is to ensure clarity and transparency in the terms of the agreements allowing caravan owners to station caravans on holiday parks. Although the Act deals primarily with holiday caravan owners, it also applies to touring caravan owners who enter agreements entitling them to keep and occupy their caravan on a park for more than 28 days.
Although the purchase of a static holiday caravan involves a considerable investment on behalf of the owner, the ‘value’ in the caravan is significantly affected by the entitlement to station it on a park. Within the holiday caravan sector, the practice has been that agreements to keep a caravan on a park have often been made orally. However, on some occasions this has led to problems long after the agreement has been made.
For example, when a holiday caravan owner wants to sell their caravan on, but discovers that the park owner will impose conditions that the caravan owner was not aware of at the time the agreement was made.
To address this issue, the Act requires that the owner of the caravan park must give the proposed occupier of a pitch a written statement which:
- Specifies the name and addresses of the parties
- Includes particulars of the land on which the occupier is to station the caravan
- Sets out the express terms contained in the agreement*
- Sets out the implied terms of the agreement under section 9 (1) of the Act dealing with Occupiers’ Associations
*Unfortunately, the Act does not specify the express terms that must be included in the agreement.
The standard terms of any contract allowing a caravan owner to station their caravan on a holiday caravan park are subject to a test of fairness under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999. (Standard terms are terms that have not been individually negotiated between the park owner and the caravan owner). The requirement, under the Act, to give the express terms of the agreement in writing should allow for the more effective application of the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations to such agreements by making the contract terms more transparent.
Examples of Terms Commonly Found in Static Holiday Caravan & Lodge Agreements:
- The duration of the agreement
- Pitch fees, including provision for their review
- Periods during the year when the caravan may be used
- The park’s rules to be applied
- Termination of the agreement (by either party)
- Resolution of disputes
- The rights or obligations of the parties in relation to any specific matters likely to arise during the lifetime of the agreement –these could include:
- Moving or re-siting the caravan
- Access by the park owner to the caravan
- Sale or disposal of the caravan
- Gifting the agreement to a relative
- Restrictions on use of the caravan (e.g. hiring)
- Insurance requirements
- Maintenance and repair
- Behavioural standards to be applied
- Services, amenities, utilities and facilities to be provided
- Variation of the agreement
Consultations with Occupiers’ Associations
A rather brilliant and often overlooked aspect of the Act is the fact that caravan owners on holiday parks can form themselves into ‘occupiers’ associations’. If an occupiers’ association is formed on a park, the park owner is required (subject to certain conditions) to consult with the association about all matters which relate to the operation and management of the park, or to any improvements to the park, which may affect the occupiers either directly or indirectly.
The park owner is obliged to consult with the association of holiday caravan owners if the following conditions are fulfilled:
- At least 50% of the occupiers of the caravans on the park are members of the Association (in determining the percentage of occupiers each caravan is taken to have only one occupier).
- The Association is independent from the park owner (employees and agents of the park owner are also excluded from joining the association).
- Membership is open to all occupiers who own a caravan on the park
- The Association maintains a list of members which is open to public inspection together with the rules and constitution of the Association
- The Association has a chairman, secretary and treasurer who are elected by and from the members.
- Decisions of the Association are taken by voting with only one vote per caravan (apart from administrative decisions taken by the chairman, secretary and treasurer acting in their official capacities).
- The park owner has acknowledged in writing to the secretary that the Association is a qualifying occupiers’ association or, failing this, the county court has so ordered.
Although a caravan will often have more than one occupier, for the purposes of the Act its occupier is taken to be the person whose name first appears on the agreement.
For more information, you can view a full copy of The Caravans Act (NI) 2011 at: http://www.dsdni.gov.uk/caravans_act_2011_detailed_guidance.pdf
But you must also download a copy of ‘Caravan Holiday Homes – The questions you should ask’ http://www.detini.gov.uk/deti_caravan_2014_-10-2-14.pdf. Northern Irelands Trading Standards Service released this booklet in February 2014, and is as full and comprehensive a guide as you could hope to get when buying a holiday home (something that the rest of the UK has been crying out for, for a long time!)
As always – if you have any questions please get in touch with our Advice Team!